BBC News Magazine

Page last updated at 13:07 GMT, Tuesday, 30 June 2009 14:07 UK

Why has Wimbledon dropped 'Miss'?

Scoreboard in 2009 (top) and in previous years (bottom)

The Magazine answers...

For 132 years the scoreboards at Wimbledon have billed female tennis players as "Miss" or "Mrs", so why have the titles been dropped?

Wimbledon has always been known for its strict standards of etiquette. Organisers of the tournament like things to be done just so, like insisting players wear predominantly white.

But nothing is sacred and some traditions have been scrapped in recent years. Players have not had to bow or curtsy to the royal box when entering and leaving Centre Court since 2003.

To avoid confusion if sisters play
To achieve parity between men and women's games

This year another formality has been dropped. For the first time in the tournament's 132-year history female tennis players are no longer referred to as "Miss" or "Mrs" on scoreboards, with first names being used instead.

Insiders suggest the tradition has been dropped to bring the women's game in line with the men's, and because not using first names can become confusing if sisters are playing each other.

The All England Lawn Tennis Club, which organises the tournament, says there is no official reason for the change.

"There is no official line on this," says a spokeswoman for Wimbledon. "It's something that we've just changed this year. It's actually gone completely unnoticed, until now."

But there has been some speculation about why the change has been made.

Modern game

"It's probably to make it easier when sisters play each other," says one insider. "Also it could be about bringing the women into line with the men, after all they get paid the same now."

Up until this year women players had been referred to as "Miss" or "Mrs" and no first names were used, according to the All England Club. The title "Ms" has never been used.

When the Williams sisters played each other, the initials from their first names were used to differentiate who was who.

But the use of titles has not been completely consigned to the record books. Women players are still referred to as "Miss" or "Mrs" by umpires during games.

Question mark floor plan of BBC Television Centre
A regular part of the BBC News Magazine, Who, What, Why? aims to answer some of the questions behind the headlines

The change has been implemented without fuss or fanfare, unlike the tradition of bowing to the royal box when entering and leaving Centre Court.

This change was made at the request of the Duke of Kent, patron of the All England Lawn Tennis Club, who said it no longer fitted in with the modern game.

Some players objected to the tradition being scrapped and it made the headlines.

It was also big news when it was announced two years ago that women would receive the same amount in prize money at Wimbledon as male competitors.

Thank you to eagle-eyed Magazine reader Richard Breese for spotting this change.

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